Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"They're coming to convert us"

A friend mentioned the other day that one of the reasons she's nervous about the Islamists in Syria and elsewhere is "they're coming to convert us." I had no good response at the time, and I also have no idea where she got that idea from. As far as I can tell, the fanatics associated with Da'esh (aka ISIS aka ISIL) are focusing their conversion efforts, if you can call them that, on the already converted, i.e., young people who are Muslims already but were raised in more secularized or moderate homes. They do a sales pitch on the Internet trying to persuade young people that Islam needs to be defended against the infidels; they're trying to turn run of the mill believers into fanatics. My friend and I are not the target demographic for Da'esh; they have no interest in converting little old ladies.

As for conversion in general, the S.O. and I have lived all over the country, including multiple major cities (Tucson, Atlanta, Washington, D.C.). We've had a lot of different "missionaries" try to convert us. Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, Pentecostals, Baptists, even a few Buddhists. The weirdest one was probably The Process Church of the Final Judgement -- they always reminded me of the Satanist branch of the Salvation Army. Maybe it was the uniforms. Anyway, the one religion that has never in my lifetime tried to persuade me that I should take a look at it is Islam. I've known quite a few Muslims -- co-workers, college friends, students, neighbors, a landlord -- and not once has any of them ever shoved a Koran in my face and told me I need to read the good news about God. Both of my kids had good friends who were Muslim; those girls were the only ones who never tried to persuade my kids to attend religious services with them. We had Baptists, Lutherans, and Pentecostals all trying to lure my kids away from whatever church we might attend to go to their church services instead, but the Muslims apparently figured your religion was your own business.

I know the Nation of Islam, which is a thoroughly American institution, does missionary work in prisons and in the African-American community. We've lived in cities where Nation of Islam members can be seen selling their newspaper on the street. But you don't see Nation of Islam members going door to door ringing doorbells and trying to persuade you to let them into your house to discuss the Koran with you, unlike the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons who are so aggressive in their marketing missionary work that they've become cultural jokes. 

Yes, it's true that historically Islam did conversion by the sword. But so did Christianity. If you look back a few centuries, both religions did the "convert or die." I have, in fact, heard a few nominal Christians suggest that's what we should do now -- a few years ago, right-wing spokesperson Ann Coulter said basically that: tell Muslims to convert to Christianity and if they don't, kill them -- but that's not exactly mainstream thinking.  

In short, I'm not sure where the conversion fear comes from because it's surely not from being harassed by street corner imams passing out pamphlets and telling us to give up our sinful Western ways. It also can't be from observing Da'esh indulging in LARPing in the Syrian desert because thus far Da'esh seems more interested in terrorizing and chasing out non-Muslims than they do in converting anyone. Several million refugees fleeing the region doesn't exactly suggest that Da'esh is engaging in any meaningful proselyzation efforts. It's a mystery.


  1. Islam isn't that big here but I have met a few and they were peaceful but I keep reading that when they get over a certain percentage of the population is when they start becoming a problem. Or if you bring them in from some backwards country, they are a different kind of people than the moderate ones here now.

  2. you don't see pagan's knocking on your door asking you to come over to the side of the Goddess either.


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